Glenn Shares Lessons Learned
Mike “Stinger” Glenn believes in doing your best.
The former NBA player — he was with the Buffalo Braves, the New York Knicks, the Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks — remains the Knicks’ all-time free throw percentage leader and holds the Hawks’ field goal percentage record.
Mike is a scholar, writer, former stockbroker, collector of rare books and a broadcaster. But more than anything else he is a teacher and a storyteller, much like his parents, Charles and Annye Glenn. Both were educators and Mike’s life has been all about learning and teaching.
He founded the Mike Glenn Basketball Camp for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing in 1980. The camp builds on the foundation set by his father, a mathematics teacher at the Georgia School for the Deaf in Cave Spring, founded the school’s sports program. For 18 years the elder coach was an unpaid coach at the school and Mike was a frequent visitor to the courts.
The young Mike played alongside the school’s students, developing his shooting skills, learning sign language and finding heroes among his deaf friends. While Mike spent his summers sharpening his skills, there was no place where his deaf friends could so the same. It didn’t seem fair. “I thought it would be nice if they could. I thought one day I would like to do that. I tucked the idea away.”
Mike continued to play ball. He led his college team, the Southern Illinois University Salukis to the NCAA Sweet 16 Tournament in 1977. He played in the NBA from 1977 to 1987. Then in 1980, while he was playing for the Knicks, the opportunity came for him to start a camp at Mill Neck Manor, a school for the deaf on Long Island.
His idea took hold and in 1982, when he was playing with the Hawks, he started a camp in Decatur. Girls started attending the camp in 1983. The camp has remained in Decatur.
Every summer the free camp hosts children ages 14 to 18 in Decatur – the girls are housed at Clairmont Presbyterian Church and the boys board at Hillcrest Church of Christ. They must be in school and they must have basketball experience – there are three practices every day.
“It is tremendous,” he says. “The children come from all over. We’ve had groups that drove down from Iowa, New Jersey, Pennsylvania.”
The non-profit has weathered a bad economy. “You can never assume, if someone helps one time, they will help you again.”
But supporters always come through. The camp, he says, brings out the best in people. Among his consistent supporters is Vernon Grizzard of Southeastern Mills in Rome. “He’s a very compassionate individual. He has no one deaf in his family. He’s been my biggest sponsor for years. He’s a wonderful guy who never asks for anything in return.”
Pro basketball players have come out to spend time with the children. The churches don’t charge for the use of the space. The trophies, plaques and awards are gifts from Ashburn Inc. in New York.
“It defies logic,” he says. “During these times many camps have given up. I have the same obstacles and challenges as they have, but the camp has managed to continue. One of my staff members, Marilyn Jennings, with a smile on her face, accurately said, ‘You can't not have the camp.’ She was right, but we have needed a lot of blessings.”
Mike’s empathy comes from the friendships he’s developed, his knowledge of history and his upbringing. “The deaf, much like African-Americans and women, were pushed to the side. Their fight was to always prove what they could do.”
His mother, Annye, made sure reading was high on her son’s to-do list. His summers also included study periods and heavy borrowing from bookmobiles. His mother followed up every book Mike read with the question: “What lesson did you learn?”
The question is ever present in his life. So is the desire to pass on knowledge.
“One of the things that I have wanted to do is share how I have utilized who I am, my heritage and my legacy to help others,” he says.
“Most of the things I do, I do them from my heart. They are part of my legacy,” explains Mike, who was awarded the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award from the NBA during the 1980-81 season.
In his writing, Mike captures many of the lessons he learned. His first book, Lessons In Success from the NBA's Top Players, offers insights into how the greatest basketball players do what they do.
The first volume of Mike’s Lessons From My Library series highlights leaders of the civil rights movement. His second volume, The Integration of Sports History, explores boxing and baseball trailblazers. Mike recently completed the third volume in the series, Frederick Douglass: The Founding Father of Slavery Free America.
Among the lessons that have emerged from his life experience is this:
“When adversities happen, let the universe handle the details. After you have done all can do, that’s where your beliefs come in. That’s the place where the quiet lessons happen. That’s where miracles happen. When you do your best, that’s where you detach yourself and look for angels.”
Mike will share some of the lessons he’s learned during a visit to the University of West Georgia on September 13. His talk, part of the BB&T Lectures in Free Enterprise series and hosted by the Richards College of Business, is free and open to the public, though reservations are required. It will be at 7 p.m. in the Townsend Center for the Performing Arts. For ticket information, visit http://www.westga.edu/rcob/index_19083.php.
For more information on Mike Glenn and the Mike Glenn Basketball Camp for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing, go to: www.mikeglenn.com.
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